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JAPANORAMA - Seven Monkey BANNER JAPAN-O-RAMA.jpgAzumi, Aya Ueto, Yoshio Harada, Shun Oguri, Masatō Ibu, Naoto Takenaka, Kazuki Kitamura, Aya Okamoto, Yuma Ishigaki, Joe Odagiri

As part of the JAPANORAMA feature I am inviting fellow movie sites to join in. This post is from Andy at Fandango Groovers Movie Blog, a very busy site full of reviews, features, monthly run-downs of all the latest movies… and plenty James Bond articles. You can also follow Andy on Twitter.

Azumi (あずみ): Set in seventieth century Feudal Japan and based on the Japanese manga series of the same name created by Yu Koyama, Azumi is the story of an orphaned girl who is raised along with nine other children by a master Samurai.  After years of training they have to face one final test before going on their first mission. The test is nothing short of brutal. Their mission is to kill three warlords preventing a civil war that will be devastating for the country. The main reason the film works is the lead character Azumi (played by the impossibly cute Aya Ueto), as proved by Quentin Tarantino in Kill Bill and Ang Lee in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, you can’t go far wrong when you give a beautiful woman a sword and drop her into the middle of the male dominated action genre.  Directed Ryûhei Kitamura who made his name in the totally bonkers (but brilliant) Versus, this possibly his most accessible movie. 

Sukiyaki Western Django: Takashi Miike’s Japanese take on the spaghetti western & samurai films of yesteryear. Most confusingly all dialogue is English, but it still requires subs because the Japanese actors (naturally) struggle to deliver the Americanized lines – everyone’s acting totally suffers because of this huge distraction. All of the action is good to watch, from the quick draws through to Gatling Gun mayhem and the action-packed showdown is pretty immense. The gang costumes are flamboyant and seeing the red & white colours constantly jumping out is a real treat on the eyes. Miike does a fantastic job of keeping it stylish throughout, whilst minimising his trademark ‘weirdness’ – although the sheriff character was truly pants. You can’t help but think that if he focused on perfecting one or two films a year instead of 5-6 he’d be one of the best directors on the planet. Overall there’s no denying this is a bunch of tried themes, concepts and characters tied neatly together and packaged as homage. Still, this one’s worth a watch if you like foreign and offbeat movies.

Score: 6/10